Opera Review / ‘Rigoletto’ gets his due in superb production

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Giuseppe Verdi’s “Rigoletto” has earned a place in the repertoire of opera theaters around the world since its first staging in 1851. The current production at the Music Center reflects brilliantly on the Los Angeles Opera. The singing is phenomenal. Even the chorus expresses the deep foreboding, as well as the mirth, in the libretto.

This story of Rigoletto, the hunchback court jester in a 16th century Italian duke’s court, is so well-complemented by the music, and filled with wonderful arias, that even non-opera goers are familiar with the arias. Anyone tentative about opera could do no better than attending one of the performances through Dec. 18.

From the opening scene of a party at the duke’s palace, the costumes not only evoke the period, but also give a sense of individuality to each character (the hired killer, Sparafucile, wears black leather). The assembled celebrants mince around in dancing and flirting movements until the duke enters, boasting how he would never give his heart to one woman. They are all the same, and who knows which will please him tomorrow?

At times, the lack of any props or designs gave the production a surreal ambience, such as the long street with arched doorways. The stark red of Rigoletto’s apartment, the minimal furniture and the yellow light from its upstairs windows casting onto the washed-blue street contributed to the drama.

The opera requires a remarkable diva as Gilda, and Sarah Colburn sang and acted splendidly, as did Gagnidze as Rigoletto and Gianluca Terranova as the lecherous duke. Others contributing to the overall excellence were Andrea Silvestrelli as Sparafucile, Daniel Sumegi as Count Monterone, Carin Gilfry as Giovanna and Kendall Gladen as Maddalena.

This new production for Los Angeles is solid all the way through. The costume designer, Constance Hoffman, lighting designer, Mark McCullough and director Mark Lamos all shine. The orchestra was equal to the actors, pacing the story well under the fine direction, as usual, of James Conlon.